Somewhere in, NJ
I've officiated football for over 30 years, now in my 26th on the college level. I've worked NCAA playoffs at the Division II and III level. In addition, I've coached at the scholastic level and have been an educator for over 35 years. I have no interest whatsoever in being an NFL official! Ever!
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The NFL doesn't prohibit their officials from working their "home" team. I've seen NFL officials I know from the NYC area working the Jets' and Giants' games. I'm pretty sure that none of them have much, if any, Giants or Jets apparel in their wardrobe, or have a Facebook page with photos of them wearing it. However, if an NFL official has a relationship with someone on a specific team, they will not assign him to that team's games. For example, one official has a brother who coaches in Arizona, so he won't work their games. I do know that at the college level supervisors of officials will try to avoid assigning an official to a game if he is an alum. I am asked by my supervisor where I went to college and whether there are any issues with any other schools (e.g. a son or daughter attends a school on your schedule). At one point, the story was that only SEC-grads worked in the SEC, so....
Does Justin Verlander get a little larger strike zone than a rookie pitcher? Does Derek Jeter strike out looking very often? My answers to those questions are yes and no, respectively. And I think the answer to your question is likely yes in baseball (at least for balls and strikes) and perhaps basketball (does ANYONE travel any more?). Football? I doubt it. In football. the action comes out you too fast to really be thinking whether the "star" is involved. It's also, in my opinion, too clear and open to see, even on judgement calls. The films show what happened and they are reviewed by supervisors. You're graded on each play; that doesn't happen in other sports. Play favorites with the stars? Not likely.
I HOPE I would have called for a conference!! Communication is key between and among officials. When you watch the NFL or a good college crew officiate a game, you see them talk to each other. I'm not referring to the 4 or 5 man conferences that we all hate. I'm talking, as an example, about a linesman and a side judge conferring on a play at the pylon with "What did you see? Was he in, did he step out". Or two deep officials conferring over a catchable pass on a possible pass interference. Regardless, the key is to get it right. When you watch the replay from Monday night, you see the two officials look at each other - that's the good news. They should have been talking, saying something like "I've got an interception" and, as it appears, "I've got a touchdown". That's a concern! And it should have immediately generated a conference with the "white hat", the referee. Now here's the bad news: they didn't. The referee should have been in there to mediate. Former NFL referee Jerry Austin was on ESPN at the end of the game and he said the same thing. Okay, I really haven't answered your question. So what would I have called? This was not, in my opinion (and apparently 99.99% of the rest of the world outside of the state of Washington), a simultaneous catch. The Green Bay player had possession of the ball (first and continuously), but it isn't a catch until they return to the ground. When they do hit the ground, the Seattle player cannot be seen "in possession". By any standard I'm familiar with, it is an interception.
The fee varies from conference to conference. Remember that at that level you don't have big TV contracts or high ticket prices supporting the athletic program. Fees should be higher (in my opinion) but schools pay what they can afford. Where I am in the northeast the game fee is $190.
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Fair question. For whatever reason, I just never thought about the NFL. Many others do. I did want to do higher level NCAA games, but things happen -- being shorter doesn't always help. I've worked the former Division 1AA (now FCS) and that was great. For some it comes down to the "big fish in a small pond" mindset. Why move up if I am getting great games and am respected for my work where I am currently? And there are other considerations that will keep people at a certain level: the impact of travel, family commitments, and the like. There's an analogy used in the movie "The Right Stuff". The pyramid gets narrower towards the top. It gets tougher and tougher as you move "up"; sometimes it just doesn't seem all that important.
Oh no! True confessions. Haunt may be a strong word. Bother. Never forget. Shake your head in disbelief that I made that call. They may be better descriptors. I think every official has made a call that he felt was right at the time but that when replaying it in his head later questions it. And we all cringe a bit when an observer comes in after the game and asks that wonderful question, "What did you see on that play?" Which in officials' circles means, "I can't wait to hear your explanation of THAT call". The one play that I still shake my head about occurred probably a dozen years ago in a college game. I was having an off day. The first half was not going well for me and I was getting flustered. There was a pass into the endzone that clearly hit the ground before bouncing up into the diving receiver's hands. I saw it clearly; I knew it was an incomplete pass. And yet I still put my hands up signaling touchdown. Well, it took about two milliseconds before three of my fellow officials were surrounding me, asking me what I saw (and, I'm sure thinking that I was crazy!) We corrected the call - and we didn't need instant replay to do it - and moved on. I don't know what happened or why I did that. Brain freeze? I regrouped in the locker room at half time and the second half was much better. Haunting me? No. Wondering what the heck I was thinking? Oh, yes!
Oooh, getting down and dirty with fun and games. OK, I'll be frank - I can't figure the attraction of FF. That being said, I have a slew of friends and family who are in multiple fantasy leagues, some with entry fees in four figures. Not me. Now, is it OK? I don't think so. Despite the fact that the NFL's vetting process for replacements was rather shaky (a professional poker player as a ref is not an issue? Really?) I don't think anyone in that situation should be involved in fantasy leagues or any form of gambling, legal or not. When you are put into a position of trust, as the protector of integrity in a very popular and financially lucrative endeavor (the NFL), you have to be above reproach. There can't be any questions about your character, your honesty, or your decisions. Being in a fantasy league, where you can be financially rewarded for the performances of players you are judging, is not a healthy situation. Even at the college level, we are required by the leagues we service to sign non-gambling statements; our honesty and integrity are on the line even when there isn't a betting line. The NCAA will be doing background checks on officials working the football playoffs even at Division II and III. Fantasy football is a fun distraction (I guess) but not for professionals who are expected to be above question in their judgements.
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